By Desiree Villena
To quote a line from Charles Duhigg’s famous book, The Power of Habit:“There’s nothing you can’t do if you get the habits right.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
Human beings are creatures of habit — what we do every day sets the direction of our lives. But here’s the thing: not all of our habits are good. And if the goal is to become an accomplished writer, it’s important to distinguish which habits are helping us move closer to our goals and which ones are keeping us from achieving them.
In this post, I’m sharing four actions that have helped me build stronger writing habits in 2019. If you dedicated yourself to writing a memoir this year, but have found yourself struggling for motivation, I hope that these tips help.
1. Commit to writing every day.
If you’ve read your share of articles by now about developing writing habits, then you’re probably sick of this advice. But there’s a reason that it exists — even if every fiber of your body tells you that writing everyday isn’t worth it.
To wit, it’s just like exercise. There’s no way for you to get fit if you don’t move your body. And if you don’t write, you don’t build up your writing muscles: both the ones in your fingers and the ones in your brain. If you need a goal at the end of the tunnel to keep you focused, consider submitting your experimental pieces to writing contests! Quite a few are geared specifically towards creative nonfiction.
Get in what you can. If you have plenty of free time, aim to write at least 1000 words a day. Otherwise, I’ve found that a smaller and more attainable number like 300 is more realistic.
2. Discover what approach works best for you.
There are two popular disciplines when choosing topics to write about: tackle the challenging stuff, or write about what comes naturally to you.
Both can do wonders to improve your writing. You can schedule days where you write about your passions, and on other days you can tackle topics that are outside of your comfort zone.
Personally, I think it’s best to do both instead of sticking to one. Writing about what you know builds confidence in writing, while the second approach improves both your research and writing skills.
3. Find a good writing group.
Writing groups aren’t just great for getting feedback. Through them, you can find conferences, join writing discussions, and give advice to other memoirists who are struggling to refine their craft just like you.
It’s also a terrific place to find experienced writers who can critique your work, so that you know what to improve — whether that’s an inconsistent point of viewor shallow character development. You shouldn’t be afraid of critics (although a lot of writers naturally are). As painful as it can be to have your work mercilessly picked apart by the professionals, it helps you build humility and character, and you’ll need plenty of that, especiallywhen you need to deal with editors.
It’s not hard to find one, either. For instance, Sarah leads great “Remember to Write” workshops here. If you don’t happen to be nearby one of them, you can search by interest on www.meetup.comto find a local writing group. Online, Facebook or a friendly writer’s forum are popular places to go hunting for future writing buddies. All of this to say: they’re everywhere if you look, so give them a try if you’re having a hard time finishing your work. A good writing group will hold you accountable — and, more importantly, give you motivation to keep writing.
4. Don’t stop reading.
You won’t know what quality writing looks like if you don’t read. For this reason, I can’t stress enough the importance of reading different kinds of material for the niche in which you’re writing (or would like to write for).
Study the works of the masters and find out what they’re doing differently that sets them apart. If you’re not well-read, it’s going to be transparent in your every sentence and you risk not being understood by readers the way you want your work to be understood.
Writing is a personal experience, especially for memoirists. I’d never say what works for one writer is going to work for you. But the great thing about life is that you have plenty of time to find out what special mix of practices will reap the most results.
Have the courage to try different approaches, including ones not mentioned here. Stick to that routine, and before you know it, you’ll have a published memoir on your hands. And I’m looking forward to seeing it on the bookshelves!
© 2019 Desiree Villena
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading fiction and writing short stories, and is always looking for ways to improve her craft.